Friday, 18 April 2014

Mass of the Lord's Supper

Here is a rough precis of my homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper yesterday evening. I spoke briefly about the third theme of the evening - the priesthood - at the end of Mass.
The Collect or Opening Prayer of our Mass this evening used a beautiful phrase, calling the Eucharist "the banquet of love". What a wonderful description of the Sacrament whose institution we celebrate this evening. In fact, in preparing for the Triduum this week, and seeking the Lord's wisdom, I felt the Lord prompting me to simply "Tell them I love them". The Eucharist is an outpouring of that self-giving love that overwhelms us during these precious days.
As a priest - and a human being - I am so often aware of how love pursues us throughout our lives. Babies enthrall us because they exude love - and they draw love from us in return. Visiting a parishioner in Holme Tower hospice this afternoon with her husband, the love between them was quiet but unmistakably palpable. When with the bereaved, there are often tears and sometimes people apologise, but I like to remind them that those tears are a sign of love - so cry on...
So love flows through our humanity from cradle to grave - and beyond. We receive, we give - it is absolutely essential to humanity - and flows from God, who St John tells us IS love.
This evening we are also to reflect on Jesus' washing of the Apostles' feet. This astonishing scene - the Son of God washing the feet of his own creation challenges us about love. In Jesus' day everything was thrown onto the street, so people's feet were, um, rather unpleasant, so the washing of guests' feet was a job left to the lowest servant. What kind of love, then is this that our God-from -God, Light-from-Light, is on his knees before us? This scene, to be imprinted on the Apostles' memories, is firstly symbolic of Jesus' whole ministry as servant-king. Service is love-in-action, as Jesus is God-and-Man. secondly this love is an example. He is absolutely clear that we are to copy him, to wash one another's feet, in whatever way we can do that.
So - a banquet of love is what we gather for every time we come to Mass. We are fed for our own journey and the journey of the Church from the Upper Room to the Second Coming, and on that journey we are to love another as he has loved us, in humility and self-giving.
So we now proceed to the foot-washing. After I have washed twelve parishioners they will take up places around the church and you are invited to have your hands washed by them.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Pope Francis at Palm Sunday Mass

This was the unscripted homily of Pope Francis  at Mass on Sunday...
This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: all the people welcome Jesus. The children, the young people sing, praising Jesus. But this week proceeds into the mystery of Jesus' death and his resurrection. We've heard the Passion of the Lord. So it'll do us well to ask ourselves one question: Who am I? Who am I before my Lord? Who am I before the Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid celebration? Am I able to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I keep a distance? Who am I before the Jesus who suffers?
We've heard many names, many names. The group of rulers, some priests, some Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who decided to kill him. They waited for the chance to apprehend him. Am I one of them?
We've likewise heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We've heard other names: the disciples who couldn't understand any of it, who fell asleep while Jesus suffered. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who didn't understand what betraying Jesus meant? Like that other disciple who wanted to settle everything with the sword: am I like them? Am I like Judas, who made a show of loving and kissing Jesus, only to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those rulers who rushed to hold the tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I believe that I save people with this?
Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation's tough, I wash my hands and don't know to take my responsibility and I let them condemn – or do I condemn – people?
Am I like that crowd which didn't know whether it was taking part in a religious gathering, a trial or a circus, and chooses Barabbas? For them it's all the same: it was more fun to humiliate Jesus.
Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, enjoying themselves by humiliating the Lord?
Am I like the Cyrenian who was coming home from work, was tired, but had the goodwill to help the Lord carry the cross?
Am I like those who went before the Cross and taunted Jesus: "If only he had more courage! Come down from the cross, and we'll believe in Him!" They taunted Jesus....
Am I like those courageous women, and like Jesus' Mamma, who were there, suffering in silence?
Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who carries the body of Jesus with love to give it a tomb?
Am I like the two Marys who remain before the Tomb crying, praying?
Am I like those leaders who went to Pilate the following day to say: "Be on guard – this one said he would rise, so don't let them be fooled again!" and blocked his life, blocked the tomb to defend doctrine, so that life could not come out?
Where is my heart? Which of these people am I like? May this question accompany us all through this week.
[Acknowledgement to Rocco Palmo for translation]

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Of a toe and a leg

Ho hum. I was just getting over the gradual removal of a callus under my little toe by the podiatrist's scalpel, when cellulitis struck further up the same leg! For those who don't know, this is a bacterial invasion of your body via a cut, bite, graze or similar. It goes for the limb, usually the lower leg in men, it seems. Then, if it gets the chance it heads for the blood stream to see what havoc it can cause there. I did have it once before, but this time it had bigger effect. 
As well as swollen and reddened lower leg I was really sort of out of it for a week or two. I could just about take one service in a day, and the rest of the time I had to sit in my chair. Of course, being bacterial the main weapon is antibiotics, which I was on for a fortnight, and, yes, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish the effects of the antibiotic from the symptoms of the original problem. I finished the antibiotics last Monday and am well on the way to recovery, but still have to be careful, as I am clearly not as well yet as I think/would like to be. 
Anyway, this week I'm feeling much better, and people say I'm smiling again, which they seem to think is one of my characteristics. "Oh, Father, you did look awful" they say in an encouraging voice! What has made me smile is this genuine concern from so many people, especially the first Sunday that I was ill. First I forgot to send the Children's Liturgy out to the Hall, then I had a Eucharistic Minister give out Holy Communion for me, then I went straight to the sacristy after Mass instead of taking up my usual place outside the church door. Oh my goodness, it was like the end of the world. "But you are always there to say hello, Father!!"  I quickly realised that this was a huge compliment, even if it's also a reminder of how we can take our priests for granted... So, thank you, everyone, for your kind thoughts and especially your prayers.